Grandson of Magdalene Woman calls for State Recognition of those who died before State Apologies

It is time for Justice for the Magdalene 'Invisible Dead'

Frank's latest effort to persuade the Irish Government to import essential principles into its programme for Ireland's Magdalene Victims

The 20th March 2023 marks the first day when the victims and survivors of the scandal of the Mother and Baby Home Institutions, can make an application for compensation against the Irish State under its redress scheme. The Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme Act 2023 is noted for the extensive debates on its clauses that sought to limit the scheme’s eligibility. 

The Act's content presents a partial image that is tone-deaf to the experiences of the victims and survivors, alive or dead, evidenced in particular through part of the clause used to define what constitutes a ‘relevant person’ under the scheme. The Act describes the conditions and motives behind those held within these Institutions, without due process, as:

“..[the]..primary purpose of the person’s admission to the relevant institution was the provision to the person of shelter and maintenance”.

It delivers a benign alternative narrative which stands in stark contrast to the reality of experience for many women and children.

The scheme continues to offer exclusion to potential applicants, for example; it precludes children who were resident within Mother and Baby Homes for less than 180 days (6 months) and by inference, those same children who were then part of a boarding-out, formal adoption, illegal adoptions and any abuse suffered through those routes, will not receive any recognition through this Act. 

In addition, the Act precludes those persons who spent time within Mother and Baby Homes from claiming against the scheme if they died before the Irish State’s Apology given on 13 January 2021. This provision reflects previous Institutional Redress schemes, so preventing the families of those who have died from making an application for compensation for their family member’s suffering. This exclusion is particularly important when measured against the many Institutional and Public burial sites across Ireland, where dignity in death is absent.

For the living 'children' survivors, their suffering remains invisible.

In 2023, Frank Brehany endeavoured through the Seanad ‘cream list’ of amendments, to address the failure to include and recognise 'children' survivors, through a benign set of amendments to the Redress Bill (two pages). Like many amendments, they were ruled out of order. So the exclusion for so many continues. 

For those who have died before a State apology, they are the ‘Invisible Dead’. Their families have to be content with a generic State apology and to accept that their loved one’s stories or experiences are not recognised by the Irish State or Irish Society; Justice is absent. 

To counter this state of affairs, Frank Brehany has drafted a Bill for the Oireachtas, which seeks to deliver recognition of those who have died before any State Apology and to create the conditions whereby: 

  1. Family members can apply for an ‘in memoriam’ payment on behalf of their deceased family member, to be paid into a designated charity by the Irish government, in the sum of €25,000, and 
  1. Family members would also receive a full written copy of the relevant State apology, signed by the Irish President and the Taoiseach

Frank has modelled the likely numbers of potential claimants and estimates that this proposed Bill could deliver ‘in memoriam’ payments, over a 25 year period of between €1.8m to €5.3m per annum. The modelling is both realistic and offers a narrative against those who would seek to easily dismiss its provisions. 

Frank Brehany states: 

“It is scandalous that so many women and children are forgotten, particularly those who have died prior to an State apology. If the Irish government truly believes in the principle of transitional justice, then they will surely recognise the importance of not forgetting those Magdalene victims now invisible in death”. 

He concludes:

“The government will recognise how Irish culture commands respect for the passing of its family members. It too has a responsibility to respect that culture and the fact that so many women and children were born as Irish Citizens and they died as such. That Constitutional promise of Citizenship should be respected and guaranteed, even in death. This draft Bill only provides for commemoration and recognition of those who suffered under the Magdalene system, so ending their invisibility to the Irish State and its peoples. It provides for a living memory and acknowledgement that should rightly attract a financial recognition, made for the benefit of others in the names of those who have died and are not recognised by any redress scheme. It is my sincere hope that the government will embrace the principles contained in this Bill and act accordingly”.